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Vision Eye Institute Reports Increased Revenue for FY14 PDF
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Australian News
Monday, 01 September 2014

Vision Eye InstituteVision Eye Institute, Australia's largest provider of ophthalmic care, reported revenue up 3.3% from FY13 due to an increase in theatre procedures (day surgery revenue has increase $2.4 million 6.7%) . Gross Margin was down 1.8% due to contract doctor payments increasing $2.6 million (13.9%) from FY13. The increase is from additional doctors and the continuing rebalance of clinic profit share with partner doctors. There were no significant variances in Indirect costs, with the exception of legal costs, $2.0 m incurred during FY14 (FY13 $0.7 million). EBITDA declined $1.2 million due to lower margin and considerable legal costs incurred during FY14.

The theatre (day surgery) increase of $2.4 million (6.7%) was due to volume growth in Victoria and Queensland. In Victoria new partner doctors, as well as improvements in existing doctor capacity, were able to meet the increasing demand for ophthalmic procedures. In Queensland, volumes increased from a doctor absence in the FY13 year, offset slightly by lower volumes at Short Street Day Surgery where profit share declined. Consulting and Surgical revenue increased $1.3 million (2.1%) due to the volumes generated by the new partner doctors and capacity improvements in Victoria. Refractive laser volumes remained stable with minimal or no fee increases in place. We have noted a small increase in non-laser refractive procedures for the over 55s population, which are included in consulting and surgical volumes. 

NSW revenue declined slightly with minimal fee increases and a reduction in doctor work hours which resulted in a lower volume of procedures. Revenue for Victoria increased $3.0 million due mainly to the volumes achieved by the introduction of new doctor partners. Queensland revenue increase reflects the increase in surgical volumes in Brisbane from visiting surgeons and after a doctor absence in FY13, which was offset by a reduction in revenue on the Gold Coast due to a decline in volumes generated by partner doctors.

Optometry Board of Australia Reduces Registration Fees PDF
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Australian News
Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Optometry Board of Australia announced that it has reduced the registration fee for optometrists to $365, which is $30 less than in the previous year. The new fee will apply from 9 September 2014 and cover the registration period for most practitioners of 1 December 2014 to 30 November 2015. The fee for optometrists whose principal place of practice is NSW will be $337.1

Board Chair, Mr Colin Waldron, said that the Board was able to lower its registration fees while still fulfilling its obligation under the National Law to regulate the profession and limit financial pressure on practitioners.

"The Board reviewed its fees and considered that it was possible to reduce the registration fee without affecting its regulatory capacity. We can continue to ensure that optometrists are adequately qualified and experienced, and administer national registration standards, policies, codes and guidelines to guide the profession," Mr Waldron said.

Some of the National Boards, in the national scheme regulating health practitioners in Australia, have continued to see an increase in notifications (complaints) over the past year. As the number, complexity and cost of these matters can never be accurately forecast, the Boards will continue to keep fees under close review to ensure careful financial management.

A fee schedule, including the fee arrangements for practitioners whose principal place of practice is NSW, will be published on the National Board's website. The regulation of optometry is funded solely by registrant fees and there is no cross subsidisation between professions.

PBAC Recommends Ranibizumab (Lucentis) For Treatment of DME and RVO PDF
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Australian News
Wednesday, 27 August 2014

diabetic screeningMacular Disease Foundation Australia has welcomed the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee's (PBAC) positive recommendation to list ranibizumab (Lucentis) for the treatment of Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) and Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO). The treatment is administered as a series of injections into the eye. It is critical that patients have access to registered treatments which, in numerous, large, randomised controlled trials, have been shown to save sight, and in many cases, regain vision already lost.

Julie Heraghty, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia stated, "The Foundation has for over 18 months been advocating strongly for access and affordability for registered treatment for these serious macular diseases, which can lead to vision loss and blindness. Given the extended time it has taken for PBAC recommendation, the Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to ensure that access to this sight-saving treatment is not held up by red tape. The treatment for DME and RVO needs to be fast tracked for Cabinet approval and quickly made available for patients”.

With the current diabetes epidemic this is particularly important. Diabetes is Australia's fastest-growing chronic disease, and everyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic eye disease which can progress to diabetic macular edema. This is a complication of the disease leading to leaking fluid under the retina which can cause vision impairment and blindness if not treated. Diabetic eye disease is the main cause of serious vision loss and blindness in working age Australians. The frightening reality is that most people with type 1 diabetes and over 60% of people with type 2 diabetes will develop diabetic eye disease within 20 years of diagnosis.

The expected dramatic increase in diabetes prevalence in the coming decades will increase the number of people with diabetic eye disease and vision loss, placing pressure on the health system and the economy. Awareness of the importance of eye tests, early detection, and access and affordability to treatment is the key to saving sight.

Retinal Vein Occlusion affects about 1 to 2% of people over 40, although most cases occur in people over 60. Saving sight from diabetic eye disease and RVO will avoid the emotional, social and economic costs to the individual and their families and the cost of blindness to Government and the taxpayer. 

UTS Launches Master of Orthoptics Program PDF
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Australian News
Thursday, 21 August 2014

UTS campusThe University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) has launched its Orthoptics discipline as the newest discipline area within the UTS: Graduate School of Health. A Master of Orthoptics program will be offered from Semester 1, 2015 with applications opening on 4 September 2014. Research degrees will be offered from Spring 2015.

Associate Professor Kathryn Rose who advised on the development of the new orthoptics program at UTS said early identification of some eye conditions meant far worse problems could often be avoided or reduced in impact as we age. Such early diagnosis she said is now being made in a number of health-care settings in Australia, including The Children's Hospital at Westmead - with immediate benefits to clinicians and patients alike.

Now the only orthoptics course on offer in NSW, it has been established to address significant unmet demand for orthoptists in hospital, community and rehabilitation settings across Australia. The program fits UTS' practice based ethos with innovative curriculum design and integrated technology and practical elements throughout. Professor Charlie Benrimoj, Head of the Graduate School of Health said, "There is clearly a strong need for orthoptists and the valuable skills and care that they provide. I’m thrilled that UTS have taken the opportunity to offer this discipline from 2015".

VSP and Specsavers Now Providing Optical Services To ADF PDF
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Australian News
Thursday, 14 August 2014

Defence HealthAs reported last month, Luxottica has lost its contract with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to provide optical benefits to its members. The contract, which is valued at AUD 33.5 million, is for optical services with the ADF as an exclusive subcontractor to prime contractor Medibank. Medibank Health Solutions (MHS), the medical and allied health provider to ADF personnel, advised Defence that Luxottica breached its contractual obligations by transferring optical claims information overseas for processing.

In order to continue providing optical services to its personnel Defence Health recently appointed new providers. It announced that it has joined forces with Specsavers and VSP Neighbourhood Eyecare to deliver better optical benefits for its members.

VSP Neighbourhood Eyecare is a group of more than 500 independent optometrists and optical dispensers. VSP providers are conveniently located close to where members live or work. Specsavers has more than 280 optical stores around Australia.

Save Sight Institute Launches National Keratoconus Registry PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 12 August 2014

KeratonocusSave Sight Institute, a research centre of The University of Sydney, is preparing to launch a National Keratoconus Registry to collect high quality data and outcomes from emerging therapies and surgical techniques relating to the management of keratoconus. It is anticipated that the Registry will be expanded internationally.

Led by Save Sight Institute's Clinical Professor Stephanie Watson, in collaboration with the Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne, the project involves the development of a software platform to enable the mass collection of anonymous patient data in real-life clinical settings.

According to Prof Watson "Many therapies, devices and surgical procedures have been developed to treat keratoconus, but few have been evaluated using post-market surveillance, and there is no system in place to collect such data nationally. Keratoconus tends to affect young adults and has a significant public health impact".

The first treatment to be evaluated via the registry is cross-linking, a relatively new approach to halting keratoconus progression. Following evaluation of cross-linking treatment protocols, the registry will obtain long-term data on cross-linking, as well as emerging treatments such as the combination of cross-linking with laser and the use of rings. Once established, the registry will evaluate the clinical and patient-reported outcomes emerging therapies.

Keratoconus reduces vision by altering the biomechanical properties of the cornea. It affects 50-200 people per 100,000 of the general population. Severe visual deterioration affects 20 per cent of Keratoconics and usually occurs in the second and third decades of life due to astigmatism, corneal scarring or both. As it affects young adults, it has a significant public health impact. If vision loss from keratoconus cannot be corrected by spectacles or contact lenses, corneal grafting may be needed, which involves a life-long risk of graft rejection and weakening of the structural integrity of the eye.

The Australian Keratoconus Registry is based on the highly successful Fight Retinal Blindness (FRB) project, led by Professor Mark Gillies also from the Save Sight Institute. The FRB’s innovative free software platform—now in its sixth release—has expanded rapidly and collects real-world clinical data on macular degeneration patient outcomes from ophthalmologists throughout Australia, China, Europe and New Zealand.

According to Prof Gillies "There is no other system quite so easy to use. Collecting baseline data on a patient takes just 30 seconds to enter, with follow-up appointments involving just 15 seconds of data-entry."

Through the FRB system, the visual outcomes of 3,500 patients, 4,500 eyes, 65,000 visits and almost 80,000 treatments are currently being tracked in a completely anonymous way. This provides valuable insights regarding different treatment approaches and enables more clinicians to benchmark and continuously improve their own patient outcomes. Added to this, the program has real benefits for people living with macular degeneration. Says Prof Gillies "For patients, the simplified graphical outputs of their treatment journey helps them to understand the consequences of various treatment approaches, and is thought to be improving compliance". 

The FRB project is a joint initiative by the Save Sight Institute in Sydney, the Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne and the Lions Eye Institute in Perth.

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